8th March is the International Women’s Day, a moment to rejoice and express collective solidarity for females of our society. Without fail, every International Women’s Day usual efforts to recognize their achievements in social, economic and political spheres hits public domain loaded with enthusiasm while many just wake to mere celebrate and convey wish on this day.
The first National Woman’s Day, as it was called then, was acknowledged in the US on 28 February 1909. It was catalysed by the labour movement in 1908, which saw 15,000 female garment workers go on strike in New York City to protest against poor working conditions. Led by a Ukraine-born suffragist named Clara Lemlich, they demanded better pay, shorter working hours and improved working conditions.
National Woman’s Day was recognised as an international celebration in 1910 after German women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin made the suggestion at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark. There were 100 women from 17 different countries in attendance, and Zetkin’s idea was met with unanimous approval.
Why Month of March? March honours the women’s march in Petrograd, Russia, that sparked the Russian Revolution in 1917. One of the most significant events in history of Europe which was sparked by women’s demands and that called for celebration.
Let us decode what’s the status of girls and women in Bihar. On 8th March, Bihar’s Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar took to twitter to convey his message on International Women’s Day and congratulated women community for contributing towards nation building. But the message practically does not go well when the state is witnessing successive incidents of sexual abuse and rape. Nitish Kumar’s stint as Chief Minister of Bihar is unique in terms of women empowerment but equally has turned out to be a shame after Muzaffarpur shelter home abuse case.
Women empowerment by Nitish Kumar was in display when he provided 50% reservation to women in panchayat bodies in 2006 which was also touted as ‘Silent revolution’ by Chief Minister himself; the Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojana; the scheme to provide free uniforms to girl students and vouching liquor ban in 2016 on special call of women voters to end domestic violence.
As soon as the Sun set, the girls would be scared. The nights were full of terror. These were words of a 10-year-old girl, from the Balika Grih in Muzaffarpur in before a judicial magistrate. The Chief Minister muddied his so called silent revolution by being a blind eye towards ongoing sexual abuse of 34 minor girls in Muzaffarpur shelter home which came into light after an audit report was submitted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) which indicated rampant sexual abuse.
The shelter home since 2013 received proper funds from the state government and audits were done on time. Though the audit reports were no less than paper scrap for social welfare department, remains unanswered.
Premises of the Balika Grih, the shelter home which was being run by Brajesh Thakur’s NGO, Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, located on Sahu Road in city of Muzaffarpur became a living hell for 34 girls who were repeatedly raped. In midst of horrific revelation, the social welfare department minister of Nitish’s cabinet, Manju Verma had to resign after lots of hue and cry on allegations on her husband for sexually abusing inmates. The tale of horror exposed the so called susashan, where women, girls are shown to be a priority.
The heinous crime roused Nitish Kumar to condemn it as shameful and to promise strict action against the guilty but repeated complaints from shelter home in districts of Mokama and Purnea has further deepened the crisis within Nitish’s government again putting it in dock of questions over security of girls.
Bihar, a state infamous for no egalitarianism between the sexes, its government has further nourished monsters who had fed on orphaned and abandoned minor girls resulting in abuse and exploitation.
As society, we must introspect rationally and put forward following questions:
Do we really believe in re-storing and upholding values of respect towards women, girls by keeping quiet and unmoved by brutality against them?
Are we habituated to repeat the mistake of objectifying the dignity of women and outraging their modesty?
Can we really afford to re-elect a government which precisely endorsed a state sponsored humiliation against girls in name of running shelter home?
Under nose of ‘Susashan’, the institutional failure instead of empathy and respect imposed insanity through doors of state government. This International Women’s Day demands us to be truthful first to ourselves and then to the society on the fact that state owes women their right to justice, security and a life of dignity.
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